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Get Climate Policies Rollin’: Diesel in Asia

By Felix Creutzig

The mismatch between insight on the need for climate change mitigation and implemented policies is amazing. Seemingly, this is a particularly hard global common good problem. So why not push much harder for pure win strategies. Pure win strategies often lack the intelectual appeal of a global cap and trade and, for being so nitty-gritty, put less glory on policy makers. But they can be valuable entry points for global cooperations. Here is
one example.

Diesel fuel reserves tax benefits in most Asian countries, and is favored in vehicle regulation. At the same time, pollution control is weak at best. At a result, vehicles powered by diesel emit tons of black carbon in addition to CO2. Black carbon is the third most gaseous contributor of climate change and has most of its climate impact on short time scales (more like 20 years), whereas CO2 remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years in average. Black carbon and other diesel exhaust also pollutes the air breathed by billions of Asians, causing asthma and lung cancer.

Here is the strategy as developed by Minjares and Rutherford (both from ICCT, San Francisco) in the upcoming book “Low Carbon Transport in Asia” by Zusman, Srinivasan and Dhakal:

  •  Make particle filter in diesel vehicles
    mandatory. This can dramatically improve air condition for Asian city dwellers
    in the upcoming decades. Even more, this single measure can reduce GHG
    emissions by 14% on a GWP20 basis and by 4% on a GWP100 basis. Not the killer
    app, but considering the huge health benefits, this is a straight forward
    measure.
  •  Switch to carbon-neutral fuel emission standards
    (i.e. corporate average, not weight-based, and I would insist, also not
    size-based
    ). Asian countries can rely here, as well as for pollution control,
    on the well-established technological advance from OECD countries. No need for
    R&D investments here.
  •  Finally, tax benefits for diesel vehicles can be
    scrapped, and taxation can follow the GHG content of fuels only.

These measures require some institutional capacities, but not much financial resources from governments. That is probably where industrial countries or the Asian Development Bank can come in with support. But Asian countries profit most, besides climate mitigation, improving public health conditions drastically, especially for the poor, and raising tax
revenues simultaneously.

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